When I Needed You


Prologue

"Oh, the Gods hate me." Jim sighed loudly. He had been scouring the woods near the village and still hadn't found him. It. "Some people lose their knife or their mug. No, not me. I manage to lose... it." Him. For some reason it was easier to refer to that magnificent and frightening creature as an object. If he thought about it as a sentient being, he wasn't sure he could go through with what he had set out to do.

He was talking to himself, which wasn't that unusual, actually. He didn't have many friends. He was different from the other kids in the village. He wasn't as tough or as strong as most of the boys, or even quite a few of the girls, but he was smart. He was a huge disappoint to his father.

He continued his minor rant to himself, reaching out to slap a branch out of his way. Birds chirped loudly around him in response and the branch snapped back at him with a vengeance. He looked at it and realized it had been broken. And this was no small branch. This was half the tree. This was it: the trail he had been looking for.

He looked down at the ground and then he saw the wide path that had been cleared in the terrain. He peered around cautiously and followed it to the ridge. Moss and ferns were growing along the sides, making the new broad and deep dirt path clearly visible. How had it managed that? How fast had it been going to gouge the earth in this way?

Even knowing he was on the right track, he still hadn't expected to see it again, but when he got to the peak in the trail he gasped. There it was. That magnificent black creature. He quickly ducked down and then very slowly peeked again. It didn't move. It was lying on the ground facing away from him.

Jim felt both excited and horrible. The rope was wrapped around him it and it was trapped. Possibly wounded. But he had to do this for his father. It was the only way that Winthrop would accept him, respect him, no longer be so ashamed of his only son.

He reached for the knife he had been carrying and clutched it in his hands. Nervous, but determined, he slowly made his way to the beast.

It was as black as night itself, a glorious, beautiful black. It was lying on its side, its ear pulled back at an angle, and its wing hovering in the air. The contraption he had designed, the weapon he had wielded, had felled this great winged creature. The ropes bound its legs together and also wound around its tail and its neck and part of that wing.

"Oh, wow. I I did it." Jim stepped closer to it. "Oh! I did it! This fixes everything! Yes!!" He nearly jumped for joy. He put his foot on the animal's leg. "I have brought down this mighty beast!"

The creature nudged him away with the ensnared leg and snorted. That nudge was so powerful, he fell back a few steps. Then he clutched his knife in both hands and with gasping breaths he approached it again. He would have to kill it.

The beast looked at him with one large, expressive eye, as if daring him to finish the job.

He exhaled loudly. And again. He was steeling himself to do what he knew his father would want. "I'm going to kill you." He didn't say it rapaciously; he was not gloating. He was trying to convince himself that he could, indeed, do this. He positioned the knife as if to stab the creature. Then he looked at the animal's face again, still staring at him. "I'm gonna... I'm gonna cut out your heart and take it to my father." He took another breath. "I am a Viking." Raising his voice loudly, he repeated the mantra. "I am a Viking!"

The beast breathed heavily and stared back at him. He conveyed his sadness with a rather mournful sound.

Jim looked back at it; a mistake, he knew. His own breathing was heavy. He had never killed an animal before, and certainly not one as large and magnificent as this. He thought about his father, the leader of their village. He imagined how proud he would finally be. He closed his eyes and lifted the knife up, ready to stab at the creature's heart.

The beast practically sighed and put his head down on the ground, closing his eye again.

Jim grunted. I can do this. Father would want me to. And then he sighed as well, resting his hands on top of his head. He dropped his hands, glanced at his knife, and then turned to study the animal once more. "I did this." He was disappointed in himself, ashamed of both having hurt this glorious being and of not having the courage to end its life. He stepped away. He could not kill it. He could not kill him.

He sighed again and then with a renewed energy, turned and approached the beast with his knife in his hand. Working quickly, he cut through the ropes that bound the dragon.

As he cut the last rope around its legs, the dragon leapt up and tackled him, resting one of those mighty feet on his chest and pinning him to the ground. He could not kill the dragon, but surely the dragon would kill him.

He thought about how disappointed his father would be, how once again he simply did not measure up to his expectations. He thought about Regan and how he had been assisting the blacksmith and learning from him. And then he thought about the beautiful and feisty curly blonde-haired girl from class and how he had never gotten the courage to even speak to her.

All these thoughts passed through his mind as he lay there, panting heavily, waiting for the beast to deliver its deadly blow.

The dragon stared at him, angry, growling. Then it opened its mouth in a horrific-looking grin, stepped back, and placed its feet on either side of the lank red-headed boy. It put its head very close to Jim's and then let out a fearsome shrieking howl. With that, it turned and flew away into the forest.

Jim sat up; his breathing was ragged. He stared into the woods, wondering what had made the dragon change its mind. He gazed at the dragon flying away, but the creature's flight was erratic. It hit a large boulder and then plummeted back to the ground.

Realizing he was no longer in immediate danger, he picked up his fallen knife, slowly stood up despite his shaking knees, and watched as the dragon once again tried to fly away. But it couldn't. And neither could he walk. He fainted to the ground, a failure once again.

"Remember, a dragon will always always go for the kill." Those were the words his instructor had told him. So why hadn't the black dragon?

Jim went back to the woods, back to the lake where he had last seen it. The wounded dragon was still there, still trying to fly away. He crept closer and regarded it from upon a ledge, a notebook and a charcoal pencil in his hand. He drew a picture of the beast even as the animal below him was taking off for flight, crash landing, and then repeating the process. He wondered why it didn't, or why it couldn't, simply fly away. And then he noticed what was wrong. It was his tail. His tail was missing half of the wing at the end.

Jim dropped his pencil and it rolled away, falling over the ridge, catching the creature's attention. The two of them stared at each other, both curious about the other. He wasn't sure why, but, in that moment, he realized the two of them needed each other.

And then Jim did something he knew he should never, ever have done. He gave the beast a name. He wasn't even sure where the name had come from. Maybe the dragon itself had whispered it in his mind. "Jupiter."



  Part One

Author's Notes:

Word count: 1,377

Huge thanks to Bonnie H for doing a last-minute edit for me.

This is, barely in time for the deadline, a CWE #6, starring Jim and Jupiter as...

Congratulations to TrishB for correctly guessing How to Train Your Dragon, starring Jim as Hiccup, Jupiter as Toothless; with mentions of Win Frayne as Stoick the Vast and Regan as Gobber.

This story came to life in one day. I thought of the concept in the morning, took out my dvd a little later, wrote it out, sent it to Bonnie, tweaked it some more, put together some hasty graphics for the page, and voila. One short, but hopefully likeable, story!

All copyrighted material and characters are used with no permission whatsoever but with tons of love and admiration.


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